November 13, 2007

Revitalize the Downtown

From the Banner:

Last summer, as the Ossian Town Council was discussing revitalizing the downtown, the members learned that the earliest the state would consider four-laning Ind. 1 from I-469 to Bluffton would probably be 2025—perhaps even longer realistically.

That was then. This is now.

Monday night the Ossian Town Council took the first steps toward fast-tracking the project with the potential to move it up to where it will take place five to 10 years in the future.

Somehow "revitalization" and "downtown Ossian" just don't fit together in my brain and I think that point is made by some Council members in the long article linked to above, as well. It isn't that the Council shouldn't be discussing such things, I'm sure they should, but what would a "vital" downtown Ossian look like and when was downtown Ossian ever 'vital' to begin with? However you answer those questions, four-laning downtown Ossian would change forever the long standing businesses that have been there since time began.

Heyerly's Bakery hasn't hardly changed and the bank is still pretty much where it always was (although I've never liked the look of the new bank compared to the old bank). The Ossian Tavern's still there and the Brew-Ha is a fine addition... Does "revitalization" mean the drug store and Eve's restaurant would come back? But the drug store would never be the same as it used to be with its retro soda fountain and well-stocked comic book stand; and a new Eve's would have to compete with that restaurant on the south side of town where there's lots of parking. Would revitalization bring back the pinball machines at Echo Gardens? Who would ever play them now? Would a vital downtown have the hardware back by the bank and the Dime store back beside the bakery? Would the City Market return?

When people talk about a 'vital' downtown, they usually mean lots of people walking around doing business... four-laning would just speed the rate at which people pass through town and make it more difficult to cross the street. The two goals, a vital downtown and quicker access from Industrial Park to I-469, are at odds. Big cities might handle this with a bypass. I've charted a simple path in red from 469 to the Ossian Industrial Park in the picture.... Four lane that and then continue on to Bluffton.

Just a modest proposal.

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